Deer Liver Pâté

This post is for those who like liver. The rest of you can just leave-- Hey, I'm kidding. 

Rick isn't a big fan of liver, but he'll eat this. If you recall, our Tagliatelle with Rich Three Meat Sauce recipe also had liver in it, and he happily ate it all up. I think it all depends on how you prepare liver. If someone gave me a hunk of it on a plate, I wouldn't eat it neither. But dress it up a bit, and this under-appreciated organ turns into something completely different. I grew up eating pâté  so it's nothing new to me. 

While I was sautéing the ingredients, I was afraid that the finished product would retain too much of its livery, gamey smell. The liver we pulled from the whitetail Rick recently shot was extremely bloody. (Don't freak out if your kitchen looks like a murder scene after you're all done.) I wondered if it mattered that the liver came from a wild animal because pork or chicken pâté you get from the store really doesn't smell like liver at all. It smells-- nice, actually. But here's what we discovered. The secret to smoothing out liver's strong gamey smell and taste is brandy. That's right! Alcohol fixes everything. Spread the pâté on crackers; use it as a condiment in sandwiches; serve it with capers or even jellies and jams. I love it with crackers and a tiny dollop of boysenberry preserve on top. 

So the next time you field dress a deer, save the liver instead of leaving it for the coyotes. You may be surprised by what you can actually do with it. If you still absolutely don't like liver-- well then, forget all I just said. We promise the next recipe won't have any liver in it. 

Servings: 16-20 ounces 
Prep and Cooking Time: 2 hours
Set time: 3 hours (in refrigerator)
- 1 venison liver (about 1.5 lb)
- buttermilk (for soaking liver)
- 1 1/2 tsp. of juniper berries, finely crushed
- 2 tbs. of shallots, chopped
- 1/4 cup of onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 2 tbs. of unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup of brandy (plus extra in case if mixture is too dry)
- 1/4 cup of whipping cream (plus extra)
- 1/8 tsp. each of ground nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, cloves and cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp. of fresh thyme
- 2 tsp. of fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup of melted unsalted butter
- kosher salt, to taste

For those who don't hunt, this is what a deer liver looks like. It was red fresh out of the deer, but after spending a few days in an ice chest, some of the blood has oxidized, turning the liver rather dark. 
1. Remove any veins, dark spots and tough outer film from the liver. Cut into 1/2- inch pieces. Run under cold water to wash as much blood away as possible. 

See? What'd I tell you about it looking like a murder scene? 
Then, put the pieces in a ziplock bag. Submerge with buttermilk and refrigerate for at least one hour. 
After the hour, drain the liver and discard buttermilk. Rinse under cold water. Dab dry with paper towels. Set aside.
2. Melt 2 tbs. of butter over medium heat in a sauté pan. 
When butter stops foaming, sauté liver, shallots, onion, garlic, rosemary and thyme until livers are just stiffened but still rosy inside. About 5-8 minutes. Slice one open to test.
Then mix in ground juniper berries, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, cloves and cracked pepper. Take off heat. 
3. In a small saucepan, reduce 1/3 cup of brandy to 3 tablespoons. 
In a food processor, combine liver mixture, reduced brandy and whipping cream. Blend until smooth. Then pour in 1/2 cup of melted butter and blend to combine.  If it's too thick, add more brandy(no need to reduce) and/or whipping cream. 

Hey Jamba Juice, we have a new smoothie idea for you!
4. Place a bowl underneath a fine mesh sieve. Pour liver mixture into the sieve. With a spatula, push and scrape the mixture through the sieve. This helps to get rid of stray rosemary bits to make your paté smooth. 

Add salt and pepper, to taste.
5. Pack the pâté into any jars or containers you like. Then chill for at least 3 hours. 

**Note: Since making this, we learned that packing the jars as best you can with no air bubbles (unlike the photo) will help to prevent early spoilage. Sealing the tops with melted butter will also help keep air out.**
You can also give them as gifts. Just tie a bow around it. Bring paté to Christmas dinner instead fruit cake this year... ;-)

We hope you enjoy this recipe! 


  1. I'd like to try your recipe as pate is the name of my favorite sandwich which goes by the same name. Just for Rick I'm including a link to a fermented elk sausage we made from elk and I blogged about. Packs well for hikes and tastes great on crackers he he.
    I would also mention that it's important when harvesting the liver from the gut pile to avoid cutting the small green gall bladder attached or just above the liver. It will taint the meat with the taste from the bile.

    1. Deer don't have a gall bladder don't know why but they don't birds and pigs do though

    2. I suspect that deer don't have a gall bladder because the bile is involved in breaking down ingested fats. Since deer are herbivores animal fat isn't part of their diet. Pigs and birds are omnivores.

    3. Jake, you're right, I just looked it up. I've been carefully cutting the place where the liver is connected, off. Including a small greenish piece that must be something else. I will now worry less.

  2. How long will this pate keep in the fridge? I would expect not much more than a week? Perhaps someone could email me? Thanks.

    1. Hi Bea,

      Thank you for your comment. The pate will last about a week in the fridge. I've heard of people pouring lard or clarified butter on top to seal, which is supposed to make it last up to a month, or freezing. But we have not tried these two methods ourselves. Good luck! Thanks for checking out our blog.

      Rick and Jen

  3. Do you think it would be possible to can the pate in jars? It would be a great addition to my food storage.

    1. Hi Jasmin. Thanks for visiting our page. As for canning pate at home, I'm not sure. I don't know what the hot canning process would do to the pate. If you decide to try, please let us know how it turns out. Thanks!

  4. Would you also recommend this recipe for elk liver?

    1. Yes, elk liver should work. Though, you may want to cut down on the portion of liver. Being much bigger than deer, we imagine its liver to be much larger.

  5. This is a lot like how I prepare pork liver pate except for some of the spices used - having raised hogs we have a lot more pork liver on hand than any deer liver. It's definitely a way to get people to eat liver who normally claim to hate it! Bookmarking this one for sure for future use. Love your recipes!

    1. I eat canned pork liver a lot with pickles and French baguette. Never had the chance to make it myself-- I don't think I've ever seen pork liver at the store before. Never had the chance to keep any animals. Chicken liver is also awesome! Thanks for following us!


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